March 2005 - Initial Planning
Early in 2005, a couple of friends and I decided on try our hand at touring the Philippines by motorcycle. Internet searches found this tour to be a rare choice, although there is at least one HU member who has succeeded.
Our first step was to look at a map and decide where we want to go and how long we should take. Flights between Australia and the Philippines mainly pass through Manila. This dictated that we would have to enter and leave the Philippines via Manila.
We decided on a clockwise tour around the country. Starting with a trip round Luzon, we would then travel down the eastern islands, across the northern part of Mindanao and then back to Manila via the western islands. A total distance of about 3,500km with 6 ferry (RoRo) trips. Four weeks should be sufficient.
Philippines Tour Map
Studying the prevailing weather conditions, we decided that November would be a good time to tour. Not too hot or wet and just before the full-on tourist season.
Their government does not encourage temporarily importing motorcycles into the Philippines.
- Carnet de Passage is not recognised.
- A "refundable" bond of 150% - 200% of Customs' estimated value of your bike must normally be paid.
- Once your bike arrives, you may need to remain at the port for 1 - 2 weeks to process the paperwork.
- You can only export your bike through the same port that you entered the country. (Not a problem for us.)
- When exporting your bike, it may take you 2 - 3 weeks to have the paperwork processed and, if youíre lucky, get your bond back.
With only limited travel time available, this is all too much trouble for us.
Next option considered was renting a bike in the Philippines. Although you can get almost anything you want in the Philippines, we found that you cannot rent a motorcycle for touring the country.
How about buying and selling a bike through a Philippines dealer? This is occasionally available with new bikes. With commissions and the dealer's estimated buyback price, this was going to cost us 40% to 70% of the initial purchase price. Again, not a viable option.
OK, how about having second-hand bikes pre-purchased for us in Manila and then having them sold for us there after we leave? The problem with this was to find an honest agent to organise the buying and selling.
Fortunately, I have some Filipino friends living in Manila. They are not motorcycle savvy but, through them, I was able to get in touch with Martin (Herc) Gino, a well-known motorcycle enthusiast in Manila. Herc loves his motorcycles and loves working on them. I had Herc checked out and found he has a reputation for honesty and reliability (not common attributes with some Filipinos).
I have previously spent some time riding motorcycles in the Philippines. These were only short trips; round Manila, the length of Cebu Island, and the southern part of Mindoro. This allowed some insight into what type of motorcycles we would require. Riding conditions in the Philippines are such that-
Your maximum speed will rarely exceed 80kph with most travel at between 20kph and 50kph; roads are generally in poor condition with many potholes and rough unsealed sections; for pollution reasons, some towns and cities are starting to restrict access to 2-stroke motorcycles; and traffic conditions are similar to many other Asian countries (i.e. chaotic).
Might-is-right, so motorcycles are at the bottom of the food (traffic) chain.
Taking these conditions into consideration, we set our bike parameters to; 4-stroke, about 250cc, duel purpose type with good luggage carrying capacity. Good second-hand bikes of this type can be purchased in Manila for about P60,000 to P100,000 (about USD1,250 to USD1,800 in 2005) If prudently purchased and looked after, we should be able to sell the bikes at the end of the trip for close on the purchase price.
With Hercís help, our next stage is to find and purchase the bikes. Once purchased, Herc has offered to look after any modifications or servicing that may be required before our arrival.
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